NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) — Amid the coronavirus, nurses at Backus Hospital in Norwich are hitting the picket line. They want a new contract and are complaining about unfair labor practices.
“Nurses are tired of being called heroes but being treated like zeros,” said Sherri Dayton, ER nurse, President Backus Federation of Nurses, AFT Connecticut, Local 5149.
Frontline workers are walking off the job at Backus Hospital. This, after unsuccessful contract negotiations between the nurses’ union and hospital officials.
“What we need in this contract is to be able to fix the staffing ratios in this hospital. This hospital is the most profitable hospital in the state of Connecticut for several years and we are the lowest paid nurses in the geographical region,” said Dayton.
This group came off a 12-hour overnight shift in the neonatal unit. When managers came in Tuesday morning they walked off the job.
“It was sad. I don’t think anyone wants to leave their patients, we really care for our patients,” said Melissa Moreau, Backus nurse.
Union officials say they have been fighting for a so-called “fair” contract since June. They say they’re not listened to and not heard. They say they are underpaid and dealing with a staffing crisis and can be mandated to stay at the end of an already long shift without mask breaks.
All of this comes less than two weeks after DPH issued a Covid alert for Norwich, saying Covid-19 rates were spiking there more than anywhere else in Connecticut.
Hospital officials say they are heartbroken by the strike scheduled to last two days, and they tried to avoid things reaching this point, including making wage increases for all RNs over a three-year contract, amounting to a 12.5% increase.
In a statement, hospital president Donna Handley said in part quote:
“We remain firmly committed to reaching a reasonable agreement. And while I am confident that both the hospital and the union ultimately will do so, now we are focused on the important work to be prepared to care for our patients.”
“I agree. The strike is not good. And we don’t want to be out here. We want to be at our patients’ side more than anything,” said Dayton.
WEB EXTRA: Nurses at Backus Hospital in Norwich going on strike